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Friday, September 18, 2009

My Pending Reading List

These are books I am hoping to read in the next two months. They make a nice, neat stack on my desk. I've started each one and now determined I should finish them.

I have a tendency to like books with lists in their titles as a quick way to organize what they want to tell you. I read the first chapter and was captured by the logic of what is being said. This is what Amazon has:

Why is it, writes noted assessment expert W. James Popham, that today s educators seem almost compelled to replicate their predecessors blunders? Looking back over a career of more than fifty years in education, Popham identifies six key unlearned lessons in education and reflects on their impact on schools, teachers, and students.

This came to my attention via Harvard Review. I read the first two chapters and felt that this book would offer me a lot of insight into the adolescent mind. This is what Amazon has:

An excellent resource for educators, parents, and any adult who seks to understand adolescents and the turbulence and confusion that often affects young people during this period of their lives. A poignant, insightful, and practical analysis. --Pedro Noguera, Professor, New York University

I haven't begun this book, but it comes highly recommended to me by educators I respect. That being said, it would seem to be a call for caution for the use of technology in education just at a time I am starting to see real promise. I think it is good to have contradictory voices on such topics. Here is what Amazon has:

“Todd Oppenheimer brings two great strengths to the subject he explores in The Flickering Mind: an understanding of technology’s possibilities and limitations, and an appreciation for the day-by-day realities of the way children learn. He also has a good eye for what is working, and why, in the classroom—and for what is hucksterish in the sales tactics used to promote high-tech learning. The combination makes The Flickering Mind authoritative and original, clear in its main message but also nuanced and fair.” —James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly

Continuing by investigation is the affective environment of math classes, along with the nature of their discourse, to provide the safest possible environment for math learners. Here is what Amazon has:

In today's urban schools, a new approach to teaching math and science is being developed. Teachers are learning that by tending to students' social and emotional well being, they have greater success teaching.

There are two books that I wish EVERYONE related to education would read: parents, educators, administrators:

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge

This book had a huge impact on me this summer. Brain plasticity is a great topic to be developed in today's schools. Here is what Amazon has:

Only a few decades ago, scientists considered the brain to be fixed or "hardwired," and considered most forms of brain damage, therefore, to be incurable. Dr. Doidge, an eminent psychiatrist and researcher, was struck by how his patients' own transformations belied this, and set out to explore the new science of neuroplasticity by interviewing both scientific pioneers in neuroscience, and patients who have benefited from neuro-rehabilitation. Here he describes in fascinating personal narratives how the brain, far from being fixed, has remarkable powers of changing its own structure and compensating for even the most challenging neurological conditions. Doidge's book is a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain. -- Oliver Sacks

Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel Williams

Perhaps a little more controversial, especially in my professional circles, this author has provocative things to say about the current state of American education. In particular, he talks about how many educators are either too vague, ambiguous or over ambitious with expecting kids to create their own understandings before they are ready. I'm not sure I agree with everything, but I don't discard much of it either. Here is what Amazon has:

Kids are naturally curious, but when it comes to school it seems like their minds are turned off. Why is it that they can remember the smallest details from their favorite television program, yet miss the most obvious questions on their history test?

Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham has focused his acclaimed research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning and has a deep understanding of the daily challenges faced by classroom teachers. This book will help teachers improve their practice by explaining how they and their students think and learn—revealing the importance of story, emotion, memory, context, and routine in building knowledge and creating lasting learning experiences.

In this breakthrough book, Willingham has distilled his knowledge of cognitive science into a set of nine principles that are easy to understand and have clear applications for the classroom. Some of examples of his surprising findings are:

"Learning styles" don't exist The processes by which different children think and learn are more similar than different.

Intelligence is malleable Intelligence contributes to school performance and children do differ, but intelligence can be increased through sustained hard work.

You cannot develop "thinking skills" in the absence of facts We encourage students to think critically, not just memorize facts. However thinking skills depend on factual knowledge for their operation.

Why Don't Students Like School is a basic primer for every teacher who wants to know how their brains and their students' brains work and how that knowledge can help them hone their teaching skills.

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